Building a Tenor Guitar #9: Bending the Sides

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Blog entry by Randy Price posted 12-05-2011 05:14 AM 2628 reads 2 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 8: Inlaying the Soundhole Rosette Part 9 of Building a Tenor Guitar series Part 10: Gluing the Sides Together »

Follow along as I build a Tenor Guitar. In Part 9 see how the sides are bent and fitted to the form to dry.


7 comments so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3111 days

#1 posted 12-05-2011 04:45 PM

thank´s for taking the time to make the how to toturials and share it with us :-)


View Randy Price's profile

Randy Price

240 posts in 3496 days

#2 posted 12-07-2011 05:48 AM

Thanks Dennis, glad you’ve enjoyed the series.


View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3111 days

#3 posted 12-07-2011 09:23 AM

I have to ….. since my daughter started to learn to play guitar
she had ask is it possiple to build one yourself….........LOL

so maybee one day …....I will have confidence enoff to try :-)
untill then I´ll follow you instrument builders in and out as I have time

just continue your good work there is others like me that just laying in the dust
not having the confidence to build a stringth instrument becourse its new to them
and is overwelhem with the fact that it has to make sound …. :-)

take care

View Marty Backe's profile

Marty Backe

251 posts in 2767 days

#4 posted 12-11-2011 03:55 AM

How thick are those sides? It looks like a simple technique. I’m wondering how thick you can go with this (1/8 inch?), and from your experience, can this technique be applied to most wood species?

Do you have another post where you discuss the heat pipe setup?

Great stuff.

View Randy Price's profile

Randy Price

240 posts in 3496 days

#5 posted 12-11-2011 05:29 PM

Hi Marty -

The sides are about 3/32” thick. The thicker and wider the wood is, the more difficult it is to bend, and would take longer to get it heated through so it would be more prone to scorching.

As far as the wood species, any wood used in stringed instrument building is bendable – mahogany, maple, rosewood, walnut. I’ve not tried bending oak but I’ve read it bends easily. Curly maple is more difficult to bend because the wavy grain pattern tends to want to break easily. Some use a flexible metal backing strip when bending which gives more support and tends to hold the steam in the wood.

My setup is pretty simple – a 2 1/2” pipe nipple lag screwed to a 2” x 12” using a U shaped pipe clamp. The board is then securely clamped to my bench. The pipe nipple I think is 8” long – it needs to be long enough for the width of wood to be bent.

I would have preferred a 3” – 4” diameter pipe but 2 1/2” was the largest I could find at the time. The larger the diameter of the pipe, the easier it is to keep the wood in contact with the metal. The pipe diameter needs to be no larger than the smallest bend diameter you need to make.

By far my biggest challenge is keeping the pipe at the right temperature. Too cool and the wood won’t bend and too hot it will scorch the wood.

I use a propane torch to heat the pipe. A torch that can vary the flame size would be best (I had one that was just off or on and I bought another that could be varied).

A friend suggested using a heat gun to heat the pipe instead of a torch; I don’t know if it would get hot enough but I may try it some day.

I made a cradle for the torch by cutting a 1/2 circle the diameter of the torch tank in a 2” x 4”. With this I can rotate the tank, and/or put pieces of plywood under the cradle to direct the flame where I want it to go. The more the flame is directed on the pipe surface, the hotter the pipe gets. I control the temp by directing the flame either on the pipe surface to directly down the center of the pipe or somewhere in-between. Be careful where you stand in relation to the open end of the pipe!

A good temperature is when water sprayed on the pipe dances and rolls off the surface. If it sits an sizzles, the pipe is not hot enough; if it vaporizes when sprayed on it is too hot.

Last of all I keep a fire extinguisher close by.

There are commercial electric bending irons available, such as this one from Stew Mac, but the are expensive.

There are also alot of bending tutorials on YouTube. Here is a link to free side bending instructions at Stew Mac.



View YorkshireStewart's profile


1130 posts in 3897 days

#6 posted 12-12-2011 11:17 PM

Many thanks for taking the time to share all this. I’m looking forward to part 10.

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

View Marty Backe's profile

Marty Backe

251 posts in 2767 days

#7 posted 12-14-2011 05:44 AM

Thanks Randy for the very detailed response. More than I had hoped for.

You’ve motivated me to give this I try, probably using a setup like what you’ve demonstrated here. I’ll be using this technique for some small box work.

Thanks again!


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